Air raid shelter and Mussolini's Bunker at Villa Torlonia reopen to the public

As of April 5, the Antiaircraft Shelter and Mussolini's Bunker at Villa Torlonia reopen to the public again after major restoration and arrangement work, with a new multimedia display

As of Friday, April 5, the Anti-Aircraft Shelter and Mussolini ’s Bunker at Villa Torlonia, the two underground structures built in the early years of World War II below the Casino Nobile, will reopen to the public again after major restoration and arrangement work, with a new multimedia display. The project is curated by Federica Pirani and Annapaola Agati and was made possible thanks to the efforts of Roma Capitale, Assessorato alla Cultura - Sovrintendenza Capitolina ai Beni Culturali.

The Bunker’s historical memory has been reconstructed through a photographic and audio-visual display that privileges the telling and evocation of the past through sounds and images. The new multimedia display, based on a careful study of historical and photographic documentation, is intended not only to highlight the original architectural features of the complex, but is also designed to meet a twofold need: on the one hand to provide historical-documentary information about Rome during World War II and Mussolini’s choice to make Villa Torlonia his residence in the city, and on the other hand to offer visitors an immersive itinerary that will lead them to perceive the experience of an air attack inside an underground shelter.

Included in the Villa Torlonia Museums circuit, the Shelter and Bunker will be open with guided tours for individuals and groups (up to a maximum of 20 people per shift) and schools (maximum 30 students per shift).

Info and reservations: 060608 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.); and or directly at the Casino Nobile, Serra Moresca and Technotown ticket offices. Reduced admission with MIC card and Roma Pass.

The tour route

Divided conceptually into three parts, the tour runs through the basement to the Bunker, from which a long corridor then leads out into the park.

The visit begins with a video that recounts, through historical photos, the life of Mussolini and his family at Villa Torlonia: parties, official ceremonies, tennis matches, horseback riding exercises. In the following rooms, through newsreels of the time, the historical period of the bombing of Rome, particularly those on the San Lorenzo neighborhood, is re-enacted. In addition to projections of historical documents, the exhibition consistently makes use of the presence of photographic collages.

The following three rooms are linked by a series of synchronized projections that immersively reconstruct episodes of what life must have been like inside an air raid shelter during a bombing raid.

A series of projections depicts the dual perspective of those who bomb and from above do not feel the effects, and those below, who suffer the consequences. Images of Rome as seen from planes in flight during a bombing run across the floor, while the city in rubble is projected on the walls.

Through a steep staircase, one then accesses the last stage of the route: the bunker placed at a depth of 6 meters. Its large cylindrical structure has been deliberately left free of objects or projections to enhance its structural quality. An air raid is simulated in this space through the reproduction of sounds (sirens, approaching planes, detonations) and ground vibrations.

Historical background

Villa Torlonia, between 1929 and 1943, was the private residence of Benito Mussolini and his family. With Italy’s entry into the war and the first bombings, three underground structures were built in the villa starting in 1940. The first shelter was arranged by adapting the premises of an old underground cellar located below the small pond known as “del Fucino” near the Theater. Soon the construction of stronger and safer structures was considered, to be carved out under the Casino Nobile.

The Antiaircraft Shelter was built in 1941 in the basement of the building and used in 1942 and 1943. The rooms, reinforced with 120 centimeters thick reinforced concrete, were equipped with gas doors and an air purification and exchange system.

The armored Bunker structure, on the other hand, the construction of which began in December 1942 and remained unfinished after Mussolini’s dismissal and arrest on July 25, 1943, is located under the forecourt in front of the Casino Nobile, at a depth of 6 meters. It has a cross-shaped plan with 15-meter-long galleries with a circular cross-section and a diameter of 2.50 meters, protected by 4-meter-thick reinforced concrete masonry.

At the time construction was halted, it still lacked watertight doors, forced ventilation machines, and bathrooms.

Pictured is the Villa Torlonia Bunker. Photo by Monkeys Video Lab.

Air raid shelter and Mussolini's Bunker at Villa Torlonia reopen to the public
Air raid shelter and Mussolini's Bunker at Villa Torlonia reopen to the public

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